Destroying Our Children’s Future
Scenes like this funeral of young Columbine High shooting victim, Matthew Kechner, serve as a grim reminder that Prop 63 could well create more Eric Harrises — the mastermind of the April 1999 rampage who was on an antidepressant that an FDA advisory committee says can produce suicidal and violent behavior.
The mental health industry prepares to cash in on billions of taxpayer dollars — but it’s our kids who will pay with their lives.
by Doug Owen
On the surface, it sounds like a bright idea: Add a small tax to everyone making over a million dollars a year, and use the money to bring mental health services to those who can’t afford it. That’s exactly the line promoted statewide by the authors, backers and hidden sponsors of California’s Proposition 63, the November ballot initiative.
However, every vote for Proposition 63 is, in essence, a signature on the blank check made out to the California mental health industry to take approximately a billion dollars per year and spend it as they please.
“The amount of damage that could be wielded — to citizens and the system alike — is incalculable,” says Julian Whitaker, M.D., director of the Whitaker Wellness Institute in Newport Beach. “If Prop 63 is passed into law, it will represent a voter sleepwalk of unparalleled magnitude, creating a massive new bureaucracy in California that will suck scarce funds out of the economy and reroute them to vastly increase the number of Californians — especially children and minorities — who are drugged and/or confined to institutions.”
Fiscally, the additional tax and economic burden the measure will put on all Californians might be excusable were it a certainty that the investment would bring major benefit to the public. But statistics show all too often that psychiatric practices and programs destroy lives in the target communities through indiscriminate psychotropic drugging and/or institutionalization of more and more Californians every year, particularly children.
Prop 63 propagandists may have led you to believe that this is a program just for the homeless and destitute. Yes, the list of people to consider for treatment under this scheme does include the homeless and “persons arrested or convicted of crimes.” Yes, many paragraphs of the measure apply to adults in general, and to “older adults,” who presumably have different mental illnesses than mere adults. Yes, as a catchall, it also includes anyone “evaluated by appropriately licensed persons as requiring care in acute treatment facilities....” In other words, if a psychiatrist or psychologist decides you should be locked up for any apparently appropriate reason, they will get the money to do so through Proposition 63.
But what the California psychiatric cabal doesn’t tell you is that they can use the state’s involuntary commitment laws to take anyone against their will and force them into their system. And, as the PR firm1 spinning the Prop 63 campaign at us has advised, “The campaign should focus on children.... Voters are less likely to support a measure that covers more types of people and services.” This virtually guarantees that psychiatric screening, labeling, stigmatizing and blanket drug-bombing will most heavily land on the poorest, largely minority communities and on children. (Also see “People of Color in Psychiatry’s Cross Hairs.”)
The proposition itself does not specify which programs will receive the money, so one can only assume that it will be more of whatever psychiatry has in store. That alone should flash a red alert, for it was the mental health industry’s decades of patient abuse in the mid-20th century state institutions that necessitated the state’s promise to bring humane community care to those in need.
Although psychiatry’s lobotomies of recent decades have evolved into a stupefying array of mind-altering drug cocktails, it is a fact that rampant abuse and brutal conditions in California’s mental hospitals are still with us. (See “Trapped in the System.”)
Witness, as well, the attempts by psychiatrists to repopularize electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), which shoots up to 460 volts of electricity through one’s temples, disorienting victims to a vegetative state. Or the recent investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) into Metropolitan State Hospital’s child-drugging abuses and similar civil rights violations of institutionalized adults here in LA. Or the DOJ’s probes of Napa State Mental Institution’s violations of state and federal law that have drawn fines of more than a quarter-million dollars. Then there are the number of psychiatrists sentenced and jailed for crimes ranging from health care fraud to rape and murder: a 1,700 percent increase over the past two decades.
Thus, with mental health industry abuse yet unresolved, advocates of humane treatment for the mentally and emotionally disturbed are not buying the P.T. Barnum hokum that is Proposition 63.
Soaking the Rich or Squeezing the Poor?
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“There’s nothing so portable as wealthy people. This would leave fewer and poorer of us behind to pay for services. It sounds like class warfare.”
— Jonathan Coupal, President,
Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association
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The centerpiece of Prop 63’s crafty design is its appeal to the majority of voting Californians with the inducement that its funding source will be a 1 percent tax on annual personal income above one million dollars. Yet a close reading of the text reveals that the claim that this special tax on the state’s top income producers is the sole source of funds is a billion-dollar myth.
Although the 1 percent millionaire tax will be excised starting in the 2005 tax year (that is, paid by April 15, 2006), Prop 63 demands that funding of its unspecified ‘projects’ begin immediately in January 2005 from the state’s General Fund. This is money that was already allocated for other social services in the monumental budget compromise meticulously worked out and agreed upon between warring factions on both sides of the legislative aisle and Governor Schwarzenegger.
The drain on the General Fund will be aggravated in the first couple of years because, despite the demand that programs be funded and implemented immediately, Prop 63 allocates 45 percent of its first year’s tax receipts to training and paying new mental health practitioners, and then another 45 percent to building new facilities, leaving only 10 percent to service those in need.
And the sky is the limit on the largesse: One section of Prop 63 also mandates that the state mental health budget can never be reduced again, even though it would generate an additional $250 to $800 million in costs annually in each of the next three years.
As a comparative, last year $2.1 billion was spent on 59 mental health agencies in four state institutions. On average, that amounts to a $33 million blessing every year per agency or institution — all pouring into a system that has all of the state mental institutions under U.S. Justice Department investigation for patient abuse.
Yet, per Prop 63, such funding can never fall below this current level, as the “State shall not make any changes to the structure of financing of mental health service....” Thus, no matter how much Prop 63 would pull in, the State is forbidden to reduce any other mental health spending.
Nowhere in sight are stipulations that would demand accountability for ineffectiveness or inefficiency of those mental health services — most troublesome, considering the $60 million lost by American psychiatrists in criminal and civil fines, restitution and jury verdicts so far this year. That’s more than a 150 percent increase over last year’s $23.7 million.
Due to the way Prop 63 is written, if tax revenue should fall in future years, the resultant spending cuts must be extracted from other government programs. This means that programs that are actually needed and do work for the community — police and fire protection, education, aid for dependent families and children, domestic violence relief, pre-school care, highway maintenance, to name a few — will be cut and the profit-machinery of the mental health industry, which brings us suicidal and homicidal youth, will be fed.
For another reality check of that 1 percent tax on the rich, consider the middle-class and lower-income wage earners’ outlook. Their level of income is remarkably consistent from one year to the next, thus providing a predictable tax base to fund government programs. In contrast, incomes above a million dollars — generally based on business profits and stock prices — can be extremely volatile. The dot-com bust serves as a potent example, with stock-option millionaires seeing their wealth evaporate overnight. Such was the essence of the deficit debacle that would usher Arnold Schwarzenegger into the governor’s office.
And have Prop 63 proponents cared to consider that the most affluent sector of the State’s population is also the most mobile? A California millionaire who feels he is carrying an unfair share of the burden can move his residence of record to a tax-friendly state like Nevada with far greater ease than you and I.
Of course, if the millionaires leave, they take with them a major source of the tax funding for all other government services as well. “There’s nothing so portable as wealthy people,” Jonathan Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association, told Freedom. “This would leave fewer and poorer of us behind to pay for services. It sounds like class warfare.”
Larry McCarthy, president of the California Taxpayers Association, calls the proposition “about as silly a measure as we’ve seen in a long time. It’s reckless and ill-advised.”
Fiscally-minded progressives, in declaring their opposition to the measure, point out, “The probability exists that because the state must fund the mental health industry regardless of the amount of tax revenue, the burden will ultimately fall on all of us, as the state will have to increase the taxes to meet the demand for services. This is the major fallacy of the idea that this is to tax a special group only.”
Taxpayer group concerns are duly justified: The mental health industry is rife with costly fraud. According to the 2001 report of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department’s Office of the Inspector General (the most recent national-level survey), between 33 and 50 percent of one year’s mental health service billings were incorrect, resulting in $185 million in added costs to the taxpayers.